Put Us to the Test! We Can Tell a Good Record from a Bad One, Digital or No Digital

Skeptical Thinking – The Key to Better Sound

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide

And we don’t need to know anything about how it was made in order to judge it!

For those of you who did not follow this story last year, you may want to catch up here.

Although it’s behind a paywall, you can get a free test drive easily enough.

Now that you are up to date on the overall contours of this mess, here is another one of the many thoughts I have had concerning the revelation that Mobile Fidelity has been secretly sourcing at least some of their masters digitally since 2015.

Back in August of 2022, I wrote what you see below to Geoff Edgers, the reporter who exposed this ridiculous mess. (I toned it down quite a bit. The original version was not suitable for publication.)

Earlier that same year he had visited me at my studio, where I played him the awful Dire Straits first album that MoFi remastered, one of the worst half speeds ever made (review coming, but you can get a good idea of my take on it here).

By August of 2022 he was starting to see just how crazy the world of audiophiles actually is, and the more he learned about some of these people, the crazier they seemed. And he was not wrong about that. My letter:

Jim Davis (of MoFi) is not one to be trusted and would have loved to cover up this whole thing if he could have figured out how to do it. It got away from him, and as far as I’m concerned, good.

And you heard how shitty their Dire Straits record is. Who cares if it’s digital? The sound is bad. Why bother trying to figure out the reasons this crappy label doesn’t know how to make a good record? It’s just a fact. Accept it.

Many of MoFi’s now-exposed records were on Fremer and Esposito’s own lists of the best sounding analog albums.

From the article:

“One of the reasons they want to excoriate MoFi is for lying,” says Howarth. “The other part that bothers them is that they’ve been listening to digital all along and they’re highly invested in believing that any digital step will destroy their experience. And they’re wrong.”

“These people who claim they have golden ears and can hear the difference between analog and digital, well, it turns out you couldn’t.”

The best ears? These guys are frauds with little in the way of critical listening skills, as I have laid out in my blog, chapter and verse, for years.

Yes, a perfect blinded test was conducted, the kind we run day in and day out, and every one of these so-called audiophile authorities failed it completely.

Here’s an idea. Test us! We can tell a good record from a bad one, digital or no digital.

We do it for a living.

Based on everything that has happened, here are the conclusions we would draw from this sorry episode revealing the fraud that is at the heart of the Modern Remastered Vinyl LP.

The digital process MoFi used probably resulted in a loss of subtle musical information.

Many audiophiles can’t hear what they are missing on these remastered pressings on account of their untrained listening skills and their playback systems’ relative lack of quality. (Audio is hard.)

We hear what’s missing because we have the records that are overflowing with all that information. If it goes missing, it’s obvious to us that something is wrong. It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a sort, and the scientific method has been crucial to our success. You just have to learn how to do it properly in order to set you on the right path.

Some of our customers who own Heavy Vinyl pressings are in the enviable position of having in their possession a record that can show them what is wrong with the ones they own. It warms our hearts when they write to tell us of the lessons they learned playing our Hot Stampers against their remastered LPs.

What could be simpler or more obvious? Until now all I had was my opinion about these guys, and let’s face it, talk is cheap.

Finally the facts have come out and they support everything I have been saying for years about this label’s awful records and the misguided souls who collect them.

You really made my day. A great article that lays everything out clearly with just the right amount of information. I hope the article you do on me is as good. (It was.)

Bravo.

TP


One final thought.

Anyone who has been on their audio journey for a substantial length of time has made a lot of mistakes along the way.

Uniquely among reviewers and record dealers, we go out of way to admit when we’re wrong.

You might even say we are even proud of the fact that we used to get so many things wrong about records and audio.

Our experimental, evidence-based approach, requiring that we not only make mistakes but that we embrace them and learn from them, is surely key to the progress we have made in understanding recordings and home audio.


Further Reading

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Commentaries on Half-Speed Mastering

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Led Zeppelin / II – Jimmy Page Remasters a Classic

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

The more appropriate title for this commentary might be The Two Game, in honor of The Blue Game we created way back in 2007.

That year was indeed a milestone in the history of Better Records. It was the year we officially gave up on Heavy Vinyl, having come to the conclusion that the modern remastered vinyl LP was a lost cause. One thick slab of vinyl after another was ordered up and placed on our turntable, where it lay half-dead until someone took it off and relieved us of our misery.

Signs of improvement were nowhere to be found. A slough of dubious pressings released in the fifteen years since then have only confirmed the wisdom of our decision. It seems we got out just in time!

Fittingly, it was actually Blue that finally tipped the scales.

Geoff Edgers, the writer for the Washington Post investigating the world of audiophiles, visited me in 2021 to hear what this crazy Hot Stamper thing was all about. [1]

He brought with him a number of records to hear on our reference system, including the 2014 remaster of Led Zeppelin II (excellent), the remaster of Brothers in Arms that Chris Bellman cut, released in 2021 (also excellent, review to come), and last and definitely least, the pricey Craft Recordings remaster by Bernie Grundman of Lush Life (astonishingly bad, review coming).

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Bee Gees et al. – Saturday Night Fever

More Bee Gees

More 5 Star Albums

  • An OUTSTANDING copy of this ’70s classic with top quality sound on all FOUR sides
  • There’s real Bee Gees vocal magic here – “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than a Woman,” “Jive Talkin’,” and more!
  • One of the most underrated tracks that holds up surprisingly well after all these years is “A Fifth of Beethoven,” and it sounds great here
  • 5 stars: “Saturday Night Fever is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album, not just for the presence of an array of songs that were hits in their own right but because it offered the Gibb brothers as composers as well as artists…”
  • If you’re a Bee Gees fan, this title from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

This copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has truly killer sound throughout, and that ain’t no jive talkin’! We collected a bunch of these and put them through the shootout process and were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound wonderful on the best pressings.

Like any compilation, some songs are going to sound better than others. The good news here is that most of the tracks you’d hope to be impressive actually are: “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Disco Inferno” are among the better-sounding songs here.

Find your favorite song on here, drop the needle, and see if the dramatically improved sound doesn’t bring back some special memories, and maybe even inspire you to bust a move!

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The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request

More Rolling Stones

Reviews and Commentaries for Their Satanic Majesties Request

  • You’ll find superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vintage British Decca pressing
  • Their one and only psychedelic album, one that came out right before the raging bluesy rock of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers
  • This is some crazy Stones music, with loads of psychedelic madness, balanced by a good number of catchy tunes
  • It’s a lot of fun on a pressing that sounds as good as this one, with the space, clarity and richness that vintage vinyl offers in such abundance (particularly on side one)
  • Every one of the original Decca stereo pressings we’ve played has come up short against these recuts from the Seventies – if you want an original on this album, the one with the cool lenticular 3-D cover, just know that you’re choosing second-rate sound (which, of course, is your choice)
  • 4 stars: “Never before or since did the Stones take so many chances in the studio… a fascinating anomaly in the group’s discography”.

This is the Stones at their most experimental, so there are plenty of strange effects and trippy arrangements. Only the best copies manage to make sense of it, but when you find one this music is a lot of fun.

If you’re looking for the raging bluesy rock of Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed, you’ll find some of that here but also a lot of psychedelia too. You do get some great rockers though — “Citadel,” “2000 Man,” and “2000 Light Years From Home” to name a few. “She’s A Rainbow” is the poppiest song here, and on this copy it sounds WONDERFUL.

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Carly Simon / My Romance – Just Buy the CD

More of the Music of Carly Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

This album from 1990 contains lovely music, for the most part, but the CD-like sound is just not going to cut it. I had played the album ten or twenty years and liked it just fine, but the last time we dropped the needle on it we realized the sound was unacceptably processed, especially the vocal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of heavily-processed recordings we like.

But for this album, covers of some of Sinatra’s most iconic songs, we felt the sound was completely wrong for the material.

Our advice: If you like the album, you might as well just buy the CD.

TRACK LISTING

My Romance
By Myself / See Your Face Before Me
When Your Lover Has Gone
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
My Funny Valentine
Something Wonderful
Little Girl Blue
He Was Too Good To Me
What Has She Got
Bewitched
Danny Boy
Time After Time


We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record-loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with others that — in our opinion — are best avoided by audiophiles looking for hi-fidelity sound. Some of these records may have passable sonics, but we found the music less than compelling.  These are also records you can safely avoid.

We also have an Audiophile Record Hall of Shame for records that were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. If you’ve spent any time on this blog at all, you know that these records are some of the worst sounding pressings we have ever had the displeasure to play.

We routinely play them in our Hot Stamper Shootouts against the vintage records that we offer, and are often surprised at just how bad an “audiophile record” can sound and still be considered an “audiophile record.”

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Art Pepper+Eleven – Hard to Beat for Music or Sound

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

If you buy only one Large Group Jazz Record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to blow your mind.

And that’s doubly true if you own any modern reissue. (The best early OJC pressings can be good but often suffer from the standard problems OJCs tend to have — they lack weight, Tubey Magic and can get a bit hot up top.)

This is the kind of sound no later pressing from ANY era can compete with. Last time around we noted:

This vintage Contemporary stereo pressing has plenty of Modern Jazz Classics Magic. On a copy such as this you can really pick out each of the musicians and follow them throughout the course of the track. Being able to appreciate everyone’s contributions really gives you a sense of how much work went into the making of this album. It’s nothing short of epic.

This is one DYNAMIC jazz record — drop the needle on any track and prepare to be knocked out.

The sound is full-bodied and energetic, with breathy brass and plenty of studio ambience.

As is so often is the case with the best Contemporary records, thanks must go to Howard Holzer and Roy DuNann.

If I could only have one Art Pepper record, this would be the one.

Marty Paich, Brilliant Arranger

The amazing Marty Paich did the arrangements for this group of top musicians. As far as big band goes it doesn’t get much better than this. If I had to pick one big band album to take to my desert island it might very well be this one. The arrangements are lively and everyone seems to be having a good time in the studio.

Marty was one of the most sought-after arrangers back in the day. In discogs there are currently 512 listings under his name for writing and arranging.

Many consider this to be the best record Art Pepper ever made, along with Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, and it’s hard to argue with either title as both are superb and deserve a place in any audiophile’s collection. I would add Art Pepper Today to that list, although we rarely have copies on the site of that title. The good pressings are very hard to find.

A Must Own Jazz Record

We consider Modern Jazz Classics a Masterpiece. It’s a Demo Disc Quality recording that should be part of any serious Audiophile Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

The Players

  • Art Pepper — alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet
  • Pete Candoli — trumpet
  • Al Porcino — trumpet
  • Jack Sheldon — trumpet
  • Dick Nash — trombone
  • Bob Enevoldsen — valve trombone, tenor saxophone
  • Vince DeRosa — French horn
  • Herb Geller — alto saxophone
  • Bud Shank — alto saxophone
  • Charlie Kennedy — alto saxophone
  • Bill Perkins — tenor saxophone
  • Richie Kamuca — tenor saxophone
  • Med Flory — baritone saxophone
  • Russ Freeman — piano
  • Joe Mondragon — bass
  • Mel Lewis — drums
  • Marty Paich — arranger, conductor

A Must Own Jazz Record

We consider Modern Jazz Classics a Masterpiece. It’s a Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Audiophile Jazz Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Move 
Groovin’ High
Opus de Funk 
‘Round Midnight 
Four Brothers 
Shaw ‘Nuff

Side Two

Bernie’s Tune 
Walkin’ Shoes 
Anthropology 
Airegin 
Walkin’ 
Donna Lee

AMG 5 Star Rave Review!

This is a true classic. Altoist Art Pepper is joined by an 11-piece band playing Marty Paich arrangements of a dozen jazz standards from the bop and cool jazz era. Trumpeter Jack Sheldon has a few solos, but the focus is very much on the altoist who is in peak form for this period. Throughout, Pepper sounds quite inspired by Paich’s charts which feature the band as an active part of the music rather than just in the background. Highlights of this highly enjoyable set include “Move,” “Four Brothers,” “Shaw Nuff,” “Anthropology,” and “Donna Lee,” but there is not a single throwaway track to be heard. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.

Oscar Peterson, et al. – Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson

More Oscar Petterson

More Jazz Recordings of Interest

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this original Pablo pressing has some of the BEST sound we have ever heard for this title – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly spacious and three-dimensional for a recording from 1986
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The strictly instrumental set has many fine solos on appealing tunes such as ‘Stuffy,’ ‘Broadway’ and the lengthy blues ‘Slooow Drag.’ This boppish session gave Vinson a rare chance to really stretch out and he was up for the challenge.”

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Letter of the Week – “I am blown away with the White Album you sent.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased a while back:

Hey Tom, 

I am completely stunned. I am blown away with the White Album you sent. It is as if I am there in the studio. The music has so much more shading, tone, and phrasing that gives it much more meaning and enjoyment; which has been lost on me for 40 years.

I can now hear it and I get it. Wow! You guys never cease to amaze with what you find. Thanks as usual.

Mike H.

Mike,

Glad you liked our White Album. It’s amazing how good it sounds once you know which pressings are the good ones and which to avoid.

Hint: it’s the originals are to be avoided, but don’t tell that to the average record collecting audiophile. They will think you have lost your mind.

Best, TP


Further Reading

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

More Customer Letters Extolling the Virtues of Our Beatles Hot Stampers

Do I already have some Hot Stamper pressings in my collection?

More Frequently Asked Questions

We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records — 100% guaranteed, no questions asked — we hope these comments will help you gain a better understanding of the nature of the exceptional vintage vinyl LPs we offer the discriminating audiophile.

Do I already have some Hot Stamper records in my collection?

Yes, you do. You just don’t know which ones they are.

If you have a good sized collection of LPs, mastered and pressed from the ’50s to the ’80s, you surely do. In fact you must have at least some. The problem is, how can you possibly know which records are Hot Stampers and which aren’t?

Familiarity with the conventional wisdom regarding which labels and stampers are supposed to have better sound is really not much help in this regard, despite what you may have heard, and is often misleading when not outright erroneous.

The only way to recognize a Hot Stamper pressing is through the shootout process.

If you’ve done shootouts for your favorite albums on your own (or with friends), pitting five or ten cleaned copies of the same record against one another, then you definitely have Hot Stampers in your collection, and you know exactly which ones they are — they’re the ones that won the shootout.

One very important fact to keep in mind: Hot Stampers and Good Sounding Records Are Not the Same Thing

And some shootouts are not worthy of the name. Only that rare audiophile who conducts rigorous shootouts of multiple LPs from different eras can know which are the best sounding pressings (keeping in mind that the results from any given shootout, like any scientific finding, are provisional.)

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Sonny Rollins – Alfie

  • This Sonny Rollins classic finally returns to the site boasting superb sound on both sides of this original Impulse stereo pressing
  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse Title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson as it is for Sonny Rollins
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins attempts to capture the textures of life through his incisive and energetic playing, his coherent improvisations, and variations on musical themes.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny Rollins, this Impulse from 1966 surely belongs in your collection.

This album is on the TAS Super Disc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album decades ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

What makes this album so great? For starters, great players. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly, I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason, he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course, any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns, in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously.

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Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

  • A Parsley, Sage… like you’ve never heard, with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage 360 Stereo pressing
  • Their best recording, a Top 100 album and a Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars
  • Especially smooth, present, breathy vocals – this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • Having played them by the hundreds, we’ve found that midrange presence and resolution are precisely what go missing on The Modern Heavy Vinyl Reissue — if those qualities are important to you, vintage vinyl is the only solution to your problem
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles’ Revolver or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests.”
  • Fans of this Folky Duo should definitely find a place for this 1966 release, which is also their best sounding album
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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